A Column of Enchantment: People Hate Kentucky, Expect Nothing, Unicorns…

Posted by Joseph Nardone on January 8th, 2015

We made it through the marathon known as the holidays. This is a good thing for so many different reasons. Between ridding yourselves of unwanted family time, being able to start making your checking account look (semi) decent, all the way to not needing to tippy-toe around the idea of a scary, bearded man sneaking down your chimney being a good thing, and not a thing that your children should fear and an event which shouldn’t result in you calling Dateline ID for some new story — it is over. It is all over. Let the sanity of normal life begin, except not at all.

You people are all batpoop insane. Not normal insane or just a little bit insane or Gary Busey insane, but batpoop insane. Batpoop insane, by my definition, is just above Busey insane yet two tiers lower than being I have to punch that old lady for a baseball in the stands insane. I say that because of my Twitter timeline. A combination of the people I follow, the people they retweeted, and the not so smart idea of doing a Twitter search made my eyeballs want to escape the depths of my cranium. Why? Because it seems like a very large number of humans really hate Kentucky.

Why?  (USA TODAY Sports)

Why? (USA TODAY Sports)

With Ole Miss taking the Wildcats down to the wire on Tuesday night it seemed like everyone and their (respective) mothers were rooting for Big Blue Nation to falter. But why? I am seriously curious about this certain type of bizzaro fandom. I get rooting for your team to the point of it being unsettling and even bordering on inappropriate, although, I have yet to understand the type of fandom which results in people hating teams or conferences or athletes that much. Sans the few examples of certain athletes being worse than an evil-doer in The Walking Dead or being nauseated by the oversaturation of certain conferences, what makes a person hate a team so much? I am genuinely curious.

I get being jealous of Kentucky’s success or — to some extent — not being in love with John Calipari’s one-and-done approach. Still, shouldn’t we be celebrating what and how they do it? I mean, in an age when everyone complains about selfish players and whatnot, Calipari continues to recruit tippy-top-recruits (how do I get a patent?) and convinces them to play unselfishly, putting their numbers and individual accolades to the wayside, all in favor of Kentucky basketball. It is the same thing people used to do when they applauded Coach K’s methods during Duke’s great runs. However, because Cal and/or Kentucky basketball is less likable because I haven’t the slightest, people continue to hammer them for whatever reasons they can find and instead of celebrating a close win after a two-week layoff they rather poke holes in all things surrounding the program.

To me it is the unicorn vs lobster theory. Unicorns are a beloved creature in pop culture, with kids, etc., because, well, I am not too sure why. What exactly does a unicorn do that makes it so special? I am being serious here. Outside of having a horn on the top of its skull, does it do anything else? Isn’t it just a glorified horse? Yet we put that unicorn on a pedestal because it is neat or something — likely something, but I haven’t the slightest.

Discuss Among Yourselves.

Discuss Among Yourselves.

On the other hand we have the lobster. A red, clawed and yummy to eat creature. We do not hold that thing to the same esteem we do the unicorn. That’s despite the lobster being far more useful. We can eat it, race it, (I guess) have them fight each other, and so on. In fact, I bet if a lobster and a unicorn were to square off in an MMA/UFC type match that the unicorn would get demolished. Sure, the unicorn has some size, is a mythological creature and would probably be the favorite going into the fight, but the lobster has gosh slam claws! It would just clip the hell out of that unicorn and probably leave it hornless.

In this poor, almost not even correlated analogy, Kentucky is the lobster. We are taking it for granted even though it has been great, useful and all other positive adjectives for some time now. I suppose that makes every program people put on a pedestal a unicorn because most of the time they are on said pedestal for fictitious reasons. So, um, knock that unicorn off its pedestal and try to enjoy the greatness that has been and continues to be Kentucky. Sure, they might not go undefeated or anything, but the idea that they might, that they can create history, is reason enough to root for them — as long as they aren’t playing your favorite team.


What in the Sam Cassell Jr. has happened to the St. John’s Red Storm? It is actually a pretty simple answer. A lack of size, depth and secondary players being less than secondary has resulted in the Johnnies falling to 0-3 in Big East play. This comes a year after they started 0-5 in conference action, a few days after the hyperbolic expectations of Rysheed Jordan came back from being on a leave of absence for whatever reason(s), and years into the ho-hum Steve Lavin era with the program. It is sad, though. Whatever ends up happening the rest of the way for St. John’s might overshadow something more important, how D’Angelo Harrison turned into one of the best players in the entire nation by playing as hard or harder than anyone in the country, being one of the most controlled volume-shooters I have ever seen and without a terribly great supporting cast in any of his four years with the program.

St. John’s has a slew of problems the rest of the way. None of them can actually be fixed either. The lack of depth can’t be fixed by some magical free-agency signing nor can the lack of size be cured since there’s no magical jelly bean Lavin can feed his players to become taller. Yet, because of all of St. John’s roster shortcomings it might be the reason to watch Harrison even more than you would if they had depth, size and an above-average supporting cast. Harrison continues to put the Red Storm on his back during games that they probably shouldn’t even be in (see: Nova, for a while), and make people actually believe the Johnnies have a chance. That is, until they run out of gas, get outrebounded and get into foul trouble. Then all Red Storm-related positives get brought back to earth. It is worth noting, though, while I am seemingly bashing their secondary players, I’m only doing so because they have a lack of them. When Jordan plays competently (he is incredibly inconsistent), St. John’s is spectacular. Couple that with Chris Obekpa truly being one of the best off-the-ball defenders in the entire country with Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer’s ability to do a bit of everything and the Red Storm should be so much better.

Alas, this is why recruiting matters, kids. Lavin has only signed four players over the last two years. One of those guys isn’t even with the team anymore and the other rides the pine as if he were the lady who did those Pine-Sol commercials. Like Kentucky’s greatness, though, don’t hate on the Red Storm’s inabilities but instead try to enjoy the greatness that has been D’Angelo Harrison. His run is nearly over.


Holy UCLA basketball, Batman. What a poop-show (much different that being batpoop insane, by the way). People tried to warn them about the unholiness that is Steve Alford. That despite being a competent basketball coach, people just don’t seem to like him and for mostly good reason — which puts UCLA in the very unique situation of having every right to run this coach from the program this early into his tenure. Yes, the Bruins’ fanbase is well-known for being a wee-bit Gary Busey-level insane, running good coaches out of the program before their time has actually run its course, but this Alford situation isn’t going to get any better. Really, it will only get worse with every missed three-point attempt the glory that came from Steve’s loins hurls towards the general direction of a basketball hoop. Granted, there’s no one to blame but the people at UCLA for hiring Alford, but maybe (even) they should get a pass here.

Steve Alford, UCLA

Alford Being Alford. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Now, the buyout portion of Alford’s contract is reportedly a bit tricky. It will probably takes lots of UCLA boosters, athletic department employees going door-to-door and other tomfoolery to help come up with the money that it will take to rid themselves of all things Steve Alford, but I think they will manage. Getting Alford out of Westwood won’t solve the other problems the program has, though. Mainly, their lack of understanding how this building a program thing works and how tempering expectations is a good thing to do.

Like Kentucky. Like St. John’s. Like certain players on both of those squads, the people who cover them and their fans. UCLA, the media who covers them, and their fan base do not know how to properly place expectations on things. Kentucky is forced to deal with the unrealistic expectations that other people put on them. If they fail to live up to them it results in those same people calling them failures. Same goes for St. John’s, the hype that came with Rysheed Jordan when he entered the program, and UCLA basketball every single season. We, meaning everyone remotely putting expectations on the intangible college basketball commodity known as expectations, are setting everyone up to fail before anything even happens. Basically, let’s build this puppy up so high that it could only falter type of situation, which is good for no one.

Great things usually take time to be great. UCLA was once super-great, then just great, then pretty good, and now they are quickly going in the other direction. Maybe I am being the one jumping the gun calling for Alford’s head on a stick this early, or maybe I have finally come to the realization that everyone wants gosh slammed unicorns instead of the more practical lobster that might take some more time to develop into a solid thing than its adversary.

Damn you, Dana White. You will sign CM Punk to a UFC contract but you won’t give me my Unicorn vs. Lobster match that I have long dreamt of? It would solve so many mysteries. Eh, I digress, basketball — kind of.

Joseph Nardone (22 Posts)

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.

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